2021 In Review: Day 11 – Crossover and World

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2021 In Review

1. Introduction + Best Album Art
2. Song of the Year
3. Album of the Year
4. R&B and Soul
5. Rock and Alternative
6. Rap and Hip-hop
7. Dance and Electronic
8. Pop and Ballad
9. Folk and Country
10. Jazz and Blues
11. Crossover and World
12. Best Collaborative Work
13. Rookie Artist of the Year
14. Artist of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

While the traditional scene (which makes up a large share of this category) did not have a tectonic-shift event like the rise of Leenalchi reoccur in 2021, it still had a great deal of quality output ranging from the vibrant Soriae to the dramatic pop-pera transformation of Ko Yeong-yeol. Of course, this category also continues to pick up some of the best contributions from tango, opera, classical, new age, reggae-dub, Tibetan mantra, pansori, Afrobeat, and more in 2021.

The “Next 10” and honorable mention lists are alphabetically sorted by artist name.

The 2021 Crossover and World Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below (note that Spotify is missing particularly many works from this category):


Best Crossover and World Album 2021

Jung Jaeil – Psalms

A grave, nearly unbearable weight presses down throughout the album’s splitting volume and mix. The performance of the Budapest Scoring Orchestra and Choir is deliberate but powerful, soaring and sometimes striking with precision as in “His Days Are Like a Passing Shadow”. Jung Eun-hye’s voice is haunting as she wails, trembles and even sobs in “Be Not Depart from Me”. In what may be 2021’s most emotional album, the specific trauma of the 1980’s Gwangju Massacre is weaved across the cries of electronic ambiance and Christian hymnals and Jewish texts, becoming a timeless prayer.

The Runner-up

SB Circle – 유사과학 (Pseudoscience)

A humorous, even sly energy abounds in SB Circle’s riffs and rhythms. The subversive structures keep going when you expect a stop and rush on when you look for a slowdown (“Fan in the Room” being the worst/best offender), the sax and gayageum generate coy and playful (but intricate) melodies, and even the titular concept is to poke fun at various manners of conspiracy theories and quackery. It’s the most delightful traditional crossover in years.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

Aleum Lee – 시의 공간 (Space of Poetry)

Big Violin Player – Big!

Dakini Space – Voice of Tara

Echae String Quartet – 팔레트 (Palette)

Geomungojari_Lyra – 시집 (Poetry)

Jeon Jin-hee – Breathing

Jung Mi Jung – 운김 (Remaining Spirit)

Koh Sangji – El Gran Astor Piazzolla

Lee Jaram – Composition 1

Sunji Lee – Oscillations


Best Crossover and World Song 2021

Jung Jaeil – Memorare

From unsettled depths, the refrains of “memorare” – “remember”, a beseeching prayer for protection and intercession – rises at first into mournful turmoil, soars one more time into exultant modulation; and the melody in the climax finally cradles both at once. The muted voice fading back in the denouement is a plea never to expire, a meaningful wrap to this song of dedication. Even in such a heavy and dramatic album as Psalms, “Memorare” stands out for its vision.

The Runner-up

Sunji Lee – Let It Flow

 Just when we’re getting used to the raindrop pulses and intriguing bass, a carefree piano juts in, plinking and ringing through a mysterious atmosphere. This shape-shifting melody carries us through an increasingly exotic soundscape, eventually morphing into a synthesizer and encountering thunderous percussion and a daze of sequencers. It’s Sunji Lee’s experimental spirit in unbridled form, transporting us to an acidic land.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

Dongyang Gozupa – Arcade

Han Hee-jung – In Silence

Kimsora – Landscape

Koh Sangji – Double Concerto – Tango

Lee Heemoon OBSG4BS – 아라리-아리아리-I Go (Arari-Ariari-I Go)

Machaal – 회전하는 나무 (Wooden Carousel) (Feat. Lee Heemoon)

Park Jiha – Light Way

Roots Redeem – 백학 (Future Crane)

SB Circle – 밀실의 선풍기 (Fan in the Room)

Sia – Frida

Honorable Mentions


Earrang – 여기가 대구! (This Is Daegu!)
Fusion Gugak Soriae – 사계_그대들의 페르소나 (Four Seasons_Your Persona)
Han Hee-jung – 공간반응 (Space Reaction)
Heewoo Jung – Everything Fills Everything
Hyojin Park – Mindfulness I – Time
Hyojin Park – Mindfulness II – Sanjo
Kim Hyo-young – 세번째 환생 ‘류’ (3rd Renaissance ‘The Flow’)
Ko Yeong-yeol – 초월 (Limitless – Prelude)
Lee Heemoon OBSG4BS – A
Machaal – 마찰시험 (Friction Test)
Mollang – Free Music Band ‘Mollang’ Vol2
Seojungmin – Youtopia
Sia – Color the Kahlo
Srisley – 30
The Korean Band ID – The Korean Band ID
Youngjoo Lee and the Astronauts – Life


2nd Moon – Estella
Aleum Lee – 시의 공간 (Space of Poetry)
Baneungjeom – 태평가 (Swing Point)
Bidam – 일출 (Sunrise)
Big Violin Player & Lavender Blue – Mucho Gusto
Big Violin Player – 10분 (10 Minutes) (Feat. Siaseeds)
Big Violin Player – 파랑새 (Blue Bird)
Coreyah – 사랑의 근본 (The Love Principle)
Dakini Space – Legend of 21 Taras
Dakini Space – Voice of Tara (Green Tara Mantra)
Dosi – 요운 (Ominous Cloud)
ESP – Gaya DNA
Earrang – 아 목동아 (Ah, Mokdong)
Earrang – 여기가 대구! (This Is Daegu!)
Echae String Quartet – 어항 (Fishbowl)
Fusion Gugak Soriae – 움찬 (Vibrant)
Gayageum Ensemble ModernGeum – 도라지 (Doragi)
Geomungojari_Lyra – 시의 숲 (Forest of Poetry)
Haepaary – 경포대로 가서 (Go to GPD and Then)
Heewoo Jung – Absence
Heo Yoon-jeong – 밤꽃 (Night Flower)
ID:Earth – Cave
Jung Jae-hyung – Dance of Phrase (Feat. Qim Isle)
Jung Jae-hyung – Feather of the Spring
Jung Jae-hyung – The Wave
Jung Mi Jung – 꽃풀 (A Flowering Plant)
Jung Mi Jung – 나르샤 (Fly)
Kim Hyo-young – 눈물 (The Tears)
Koh Sangji – Decarissimo
Korean Traditional Music Band Haerang – 비나리 (Binari)
Kyungso Park – 춘앵 (Chunaeng)
La Poem – Waltz in Storm
Lee Heemoon, Heosongsewol, Nomnom – 제주나돈데 (Jeju and Island)
Lee Jaram – Choosun’s Death
Lee Jaram – Lazara’s Theme
Leenalchi – 여보나리 (Please Don’t Go)
Lucia Choi – Stairway Winding
NST & the Soul Sauce – Steppin’ On
NST & the Soul Sauce – 너무뿌예 (Puye)
Noonset – 새매 (Sparrow Hawk) (Feat. Do Yeon Kim)
Numori – 취한다 취해 (Drunk Drunk)
Nyk – Texture
Omar and the Eastern Power – Htalen
Omar and the Eastern Power – Sunshine
Queen – 도깨비방망이 (Dokkaebi Stick)
SB Circle – 사카린 (Saccharin)
SB Circle – 피톤치드 (Phytoncide)
Shindrum – Unconditional Love
Sonia Choy – 별 (Star)
Soorin & Yu Hyeon-sik – Wander
Srisley – Cucaracha
Sunji Lee – Crack
Sunji Lee – Dawn Song
Sunji Lee – Swell
Tell a Tale – 요즘 나의 밤 (These Nights)
Third Stone – 역병 (Plague)
Vidan – 한의지가 (The Scent of Korean Medicine)
Wonsun Cha – Late Monsoon
Woollim – 나는 섬 (Floating Island)
Woon Jung Seo & Jhey Lee – 애월가 (Moon in My Heart)
Youngjoo Lee and the Astronauts – The True Beauty
Zanhyang – 바람의 언덕 (The Hill of Wind)

Lyric translations by the author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

Read our past series:

2020 In Review

2019 In Review

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review